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Imagine a forest filled with butterflies! That’s what you can see in the oyamel fir forest in Mexico, where millions of monarchs spend the winter. These are the same butterflies that fly from the U.S. and Canada every year, but they are not the same ones that return. They are the last generation of a long line of migrants, each flying a part of the trip and dying along the way. Only these butterflies have a special gene that makes them live longer and delay their reproduction until spring.

But how do they know where to go? Scientists think they use the sun and the earth’s magnetic field to navigate. They also need to find places to rest and stay warm during the night. They cluster in huge masses on the oyamel fir trees, creating a living tapestry of orange and black.

This is the longest and most complex migration of any insect, and one of the most amazing phenomena in the natural world. But it is also in danger. The monarchs face many threats, from climate change to pesticides to habitat loss. The oyamel fir forest, their winter refuge, is shrinking due to illegal logging and avocado plantations. If the forest disappears, so will the butterflies. And with them, a wonder that has captivated humans for centuries.

The monarchs’ migration is a precious gift of nature, and a reminder of our connection to the earth and its creatures. It is our responsibility to protect and preserve it, for ourselves and for future generations.

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